How Do I Know Which Procedure is Right for Me?

One transplantation veteran compares getting hair replacement surgery to doing a major remodeling job on your home. These considerations hold true for both "projects":

  • It is a major, expensive project that requires commitment.
  • It is something that you definitely want done right the first time around.
  • Although you would, naturally, like the job done in as short a time as possible, what you want more is quality.

One big difference between hair replacement surgery and a home remodeling project is that an unsatisfactory construction job is easier to redo than a poor surgical job. After all, the available hair that can be transplanted is limited. Once it's gone, it's gone.

Again, if you're considering hair replacement surgery, it's important to understand that you will never have the coverage you had prior to your hair loss, but surgery may camouflage the thin areas and give you more fullness. (If you have very little hair, surgeons may see you as a poor candidate for replacement surgery.)

No matter which surgical procedure you choose, it's important to know these facts about hair replacement surgery:

  • Hair replacement surgery is normally safe when performed by a qualified, experienced physician.
  • Since individuals vary in their physical reactions and healing abilities, and the outcome is never completely predictable, every surgical procedure contains some element of uncertainty and risk.
  • As with any surgery, infection may occur.
  • In transplant procedures, there is a chance that some of the grafts won't "take." (Although it is normal for the hair contained within the plugs to fall out before establishing regrowth in its new location, sometimes the skin plug dies and surgery must be repeated.)
  • When hair loss progresses after surgery, an unnatural, patchy look may result -- especially if the newly placed hair lies next to patches of hair that continue to thin out. If this happens, additional surgery may be required.

Planning Your Surgery

Remember, hair replacement surgery is an individualized treatment. To make sure that every surgical option is available to you, find a doctor who has experience performing all types of replacement techniques -- not just one procedure that he or she claims can take care of your hair loss problem.

In your first meeting, your surgeon will evaluate your hair growth and loss, review your family history of hair loss and ask about any previous hair replacement surgery. Your surgeon will also ask you about your lifestyle and discuss your expectations and goals for surgery. Medical conditions that could cause problems during or after surgery, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, blood-clotting problems or the tendency to form excessive scars, should also be checked by your doctor. Be sure to tell your surgeon if you smoke or are taking any drugs or medications, especially aspirin or other drugs that affect clotting.

Once you and your surgeon have agreed on the best surgery for you, your doctor will explain anesthesia, where the surgery will take place (usually in your surgeon's office or in an outpatient clinic) and the risks and costs involved. Now's not the time to be shy -- ask lots of questions! Make sure you understand which procedures will be used and how long each will take. The number of sessions required depends on the individual patient, the extent of baldness and the number of grafts done at each session.

Be sure to find out if your doctor does megasessions -- single sessions in which up to 3,000 grafts are done at once -- or uses more traditional short sessions with fewer implants. This is a hot topic of debate in the hair replacement industry. The length of each session depends on the amount of surgery performed. Typical sessions are two to three hours.

It's also a good idea to ask your doctor to give you an idea (don't hold him/her to it!) of what you will look like after the procedure or, in the case of grafts, after each stage of treatment.